A Dukes Lancaster production
Friday, 3 July 2015 - Saturday, 15 August 2015
review by Alan Chard
Condensing one of Dickens’ mighty works into three-hour play that retains the essence of the story whilst holding the attention of the full age range from small children to adults is a major challenge, but one that has been met by Debbie Oates (who writes regularly for Coronation Street). The story is clearly told with good and good and bad characters, including Bill Sykes and his fearsome dog. The setting in Williamson Park is used to good effect as the audience moves from the opulence of the memorial to the squalid Fagin’s den deep in the woods.
The show begins with street urchins moving around the audience, there really is a strong desire to check your belongings and make sure they stay with you! On the evening I attended the rain began about the same time as the performance, gradually getting heavier and not clearing up until I was leaving. However, the cast and technicians continued and gave a memorable performance in high spirits, smiling and joking the whole time.
The familiar story unfolds with young Oliver being sold to the highest bidder having had the audacity to ask for more food. Oliver has no 'worldly wisdom' about him and continues to see the good in Fagin and his gang, despite the obvious.
The action moves to six different locations around the park. These scene changes are part of the audience experience and as we walk slowly into the woods we become aware of the members of Fagin’s gang keeping track of us as we sink deeper into the woods. The location of Fagin's den is well-chosen and sitting on logs under the trees lends a magical atmosphere to the experience.
The court scene takes place outside the Williamson Memorial which lends an air of solemnity to the proceedings presided over by a suitably-prejudiced Mr Fang, followed by some great action as Oliver is taken to Mr Bradshaw's house.
The final scene takes place at the lake and begins with a ship sliding out of the fog on the Thames. This was a truly atmospheric scene and evocative of mid-1800s London.
A memorable performance that clearly delighted the audience and held their attention despite poor weather on the night. The whole cast and technicians worked well together and ensured that the audience had a night to remember. I can recommend this as a wonderful family outing that will be a night to remember.
Alan Chard, July 2015
Production photos of Oliver Twist